Friday, June 26, 2015

Subtitles by Machine

A couple of months ago, Swedish TV4 caused a bit of a scandal when they said their subtitles were done by machine. They then backtracked on that, but given some of the mistakes they make, it’s hard to know what to think. Here’s an article about it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Language Detectives

This episode of the Shelf Life program from the American Museum of Natural History is all about languages and it looks really interesting. Here is the information I received:

“At the American Museum of Natural History, we have tons of content that visitors don’t get to see, including the research our scientists do. So, we have been releasing new videos each month about our collections, each packed with exciting behind-the-scenes content, and we are reaching out to science bloggers like you, who we know love science as much as we do, to help show off our amazing collections.

This month is all about languages, and how an anthropologist and a computational biologist come together to study ancient languages in the 7th episode of the Shelf Life series, The Language Detectives.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Should You Date a Translator?

Should you date or marry a translator? What would it be like? Well, this humorous link struck home. I think it’s pretty accurate!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Round-Up of Articles on Children’s Literature

Children’s lit is one of my big passions. I think more of it needs to be translated, and we need greater diversity in the field generally.

Here’s a helpful list of LGBTQ books.

And another piece on LGBTQ books for younger readers.

This article is on diversity in children’s lit in general.

This article is on picture books, but why do they suggest you need to be a child to appreciate picture books? I think good picture books are for everyone!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Scientist in the Crib

Since becoming a parent, I’ve gotten even more interested in children, their language acquisition, and their development, so I recently read The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff and Patricia K. Kuhl.

The book is about how children learn about the world and what we adults can learn from studying children, especially babies. There’s a chapter particularly about how children learn language. But what is actually involved in learning a tongue? “First, you have to break up the continuous stream of sounds into separate pieces and identify each sound accurately...Then you have to string the sounds together into words...Then you need to understand all the nuances of meaning each word can have...And, finally, you have to figure out something about the larger intent of the sentence.” (p. 92-3) Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl call it “code-breaking” and say how challenging it is, but “most complicated of all, people speaking different languages hear sounds totally differently.” (p. 96)

But what does language do for us anyway? Well, ”the most obvious advantage of language is that it lets us communicate and coordinate our actions with other people in our group…The fact that we speak different languages also lets us differentiate between ourselves and others…And the development of language is probably linked to the development of our equally distinctive ability to learn about people and things. It allows us to take advantage of all the things that people before us have discovered about the world.” (p. 100)

Here’s how it works: “Babies master the sounds of their language first, and that makes the words easier to learn….Babies seem to learn some general rules about the words in their particular language before they learn the words themselves.” (p. 109) As parents, we need to talk to our babies often, especially in a slow and slightly exaggerated way, so they can hear the sounds and then start understanding the words.

If, like me, you hope your child will learn a language from a young age, when should you start? The earlier the better. “Children who learn a second language when they are very young, between three and seven years of age, perform like native speakers on various tests…If you learn a second language after puberty, there is no longer any correlation between your age and your linguistic skill…Early in development we are open to learn the prototypes of many different languages. But by the time we reach puberty, these mental representations of sounds are well formed and become more fixed, and that makes it more difficult to perceive the distinctions of a foreign language.” (p. 192-3)

The Scientist in the Crib is an interesting, if somewhat repetitive, book, and I recommend it to parents in particular.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Brave New Reads

Brave New Reads is a great summer reading program run by Writers’ Centre Norwich. It encourages people to take a chance on books that they wouldn’t necessarily ordinarily read. Although the activities (including reader workshops that I run) are solely in the East Anglia region, the book suggestions are for anyone. I especially appreciate how at least one book each year is a translation!